England 4 Lithuania 0: Kane proves he is instantly able as England coast to easy victory

CONSIDERING the largely woeful standard of opposition, this was far from a Magnificent Seven or even a case of England being in seventh heaven.
Harry Kane celebrates scoring England's fourth goal against Lithuania..Harry Kane celebrates scoring England's fourth goal against Lithuania..
Harry Kane celebrates scoring England's fourth goal against Lithuania..

But Roy Hodgson’s men did last night manage a feat no previous Three Lions side has achieved by making it seven wins in as many outings from the start of a season.

A debut goal for Harry Kane plus strikes by Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling meant Lithuania were never in a contest so one sided that, had it been a boxing contest, proceedings would have been stopped long before the end.

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The Baltic nation’s footballers were totally outclassed and so lacking in attacking threat that Joe Hart had the quietest of quiet evenings as the hosts coasted to victory in front of a 83,761 crowd.

Victory maintained a grip on Group E that has been vice-like ever since England’s 2-0 triumph over Switzerland in Basel way back in September.

That proved to be the second of those seven straight wins, a run that includes all five qualifiers plus friendlies against Norway and Scotland.

The Swiss are the highest ranked of this season’s vanquished teams but, as has been underlined in this qualifying campaign, Vladimir Petkovic’s men are in a laughably false position of 12th in the world.

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Otherwise, Scotland in 39th are the next highest ranked by FIFA while last night’s opponents can be found in a distant 94th, sandwiched in between the minnows of Benin and Latvia.

Still, Hodgson’s men can only beat what opposition is put in front of them and from the moment Rooney opened the scoring in the sixth minute, the result was never in doubt.

Not, of course, that anyone but the most one-eyed of the 1,500 or so noisy visiting supporters housed in one corner of the national stadium could surely have expected anything else.

Lithuania, a country whose national sport is basketball rather than football, were never going to provide a stern enough challenge to make the contest even halfway interesting.

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In that respect, no matter how dominant England were last night, maybe the biggest praise should be reserved for the FA marketing team that managed to sell out such a meaningless fixture.

Shifting such an impressive number of tickets meant the touts were omnipresent on the various routes to the stadium from mid-afternoon onwards.

Whatever price was being charged, however, surely no-one, other than a first time visitor to Wembley or a Tottenham Hotspur supporter desperate to see Kane’s international bow, can have felt they got anywhere near value for money.

The tone of a one-way contest was set very early on, as a hopeful ball over the top by Fabian Delph caused such panic in the Lithuanian defence that Rooney was given a free run on goal.

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As Giedrius Arlauskis tentatively left his line, the Manchester United striker slid a low shot past the goalkeeper only for the ball to hit the inside of the post and bounce to safety.

It was a let-off that the visitors failed to heed, Rooney taking just another two minutes to move on to 47 international goals – two behind record holder Sir Bobby Charlton – by heading in the rebound after Arlauskis had blocked a Danny Welbeck shot.

Thirteen minutes later, Rooney struck the woodwork for a second time with a lofted effort after Lithuania had been unable to quell the pace of either Welbeck or Raheem Sterling. The biggest surprise after such an enterprising start by the hosts was that it took until the 45th minute for a second goal to arrive.

Welbeck was credited with the strike after flicking Jordan Henderson’s cross with his head but it was Tadas Kijanskas who inadvertently deflected the ball wide of his goalkeeper.

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Before that, Henderson had shot wide, as had Welbeck, while Rooney also curled a free-kick straight into the hands of Arlauskis.

A big appeal for a penalty was also turned down by Czech referee Pavel Kralovec when Welbeck crashed to the floor after having his run blocked by former Leeds United defender Marius Zaliukas.

The Arsenal striker made amends on the stroke of half-time, however, ending any kind of resistance from the hapless visitors. That said, Arlauskis did make two wonderful saves early in the second half.

The first denied former Leeds midfielder Delph, whose volley from a Rooney cross had bounced into the turf before being brilliantly diverted wide by the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand.

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Arlauskis’ second save in quick succession was not quite in the same league but it was still a decent effort that kept out a fiercely-struck Welbeck shot.

It could not, however, last and the second half breakthrough by Hodgson’s men came just before the hour when Sterling tapped in an inviting cross from Rooney.

Cue Hodgson making a couple of substitutions that saw Kane, brought on to make his England debut. His absence from the starting line-up had led to questions being asked ahead of kick-off as to why but surely the lively showings of Rooney and Welbeck pointed to the manager getting his team selection just right. Nevertheless, Kane’s arrival alongside Ross Barkley 19 minutes from time did elicit a huge cheer. Just 80 seconds – and two touches later – those noise levels rose even further as Kane, quite incredibly, headed in a Sterling cross at the back post.

It capped a decent night for England, who can now head to Italy – for what should be a much sterner test – in Tuesday’s friendly in buoyant mood.

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England: Hart; Clyne, Cahill, Jones, Baines; Carrick, Henderson (Barkley 71), Delph; Sterling, Rooney (Kane 71), Welbeck (Walcott 77). Unused substitutes: Smalling, Butland, Jagielka, Milner, Townsend, Mason, Gibbs, Walker, Green.

Lithuania: Arlauskis; Freidgeimas, Kijanskas, Zaliukas, Andriuskkevicius (Slavickas 83); Cernych, Mikuckis (Stankevicius 66), Zulpa, Chvedukas, Mikoliunas (Kazlauskas 88); Matulevicius. Unused substitutes: Cerniauskas, Vicius, Vaitkunas, Sirgedas, Zubas, Luksa, Beniusus, Panka, Borovskij.

Referee: P Kralovec (Czech Republic).